Visual AIDS Talk + Tour: Tom Bianchi, FIRE ISLAND PINES: Polaroids 1975–1983
Throckmorton Fine Art
Artist+ Member Tom Bianchi led a talk and tour during the closing week of his exhibition FIRE ISLAND PINES: Polaroids 1975–1983, in conversation with Visual AIDS Programs Director Alex Fialho.
The exhibition contained dozens of exuberantly and sexually-charged SX-70 Polaroid images taken between 1975 and 1983. Bianchi documented the gay community at play in one of the few places where they then could be openly gay—Fire Island Pines. The images in the exhibition are color, limited edition, enlarged prints of the Polaroids. The photographs are whimsical and playful. Yet they also harken to the long tradition in art of celebrating the male physique.
When his lover died of AIDS in 1988, Bianchi returned his focus to photography, employing the camera to heal psychic, sexual and social shame. It took over thirty years to see a publication of Bianchi’s Polaroids in print. Publishers long found the book “too queer” to be commercial: “the public” did not want to see homosexuals. Despite impressive endorsements from those in the art world, including Andy Warhol and Sam Wagstaff, Bianchi put the book on hold as the AIDS pandemic devastated the gay community. The box he used to store the images became a mausoleum. The moving memoir Bianchi wrote for the recently published Fire Island Pines Polaroids 1975-1983, together with the photographs, record the birth and development of a new culture at a critical time in America’s political and aesthetic life.